Boris Johnson ‘cautiously optimistic’ of COP26 deal

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Boris Johnson ‘cautiously optimistic’ of COP26 deal
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Boris Johnson has said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for a deal at crucial international talks in Glasgow to curb global warming.

On the second day of the Cop26 summit, the Prime Minister welcomed a series of announcements by the assembled leaders on deforestation and emissions.

But he stressed there was still a long way to go if they were to get an agreement that would keep alive the prospect set out in the Paris Agreement of restricting world temperature rises to 1.5C.

Ahead of the summit, Mr Johnson suggested that humanity was 5-1 down at half-time in the battle against climate change.

But speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, he said: “We’ve pulled back a goal, or perhaps even two, and I think we are going to be able to take this thing to extra-time, because there’s no doubt that some progress has been made.”

He added that while the “doomsday clock was still ticking”, they now had a bomb disposal team on site and “they’re starting to snip the wires – I hope some of the right wires”.

Leaders at the conference pledged on Tuesday to stop deforestation by the end of the decade and slash emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane to help slow climate change.

The second day of the two-week summit in Glasgow also saw some overdue moves by wealthy nations to provide long-promised financial help for the developing countries worst hit by global warming.

More than 100 countries joined the US and EU-led effort to cut emissions of methane by 2030 from 2020 levels, potentially a step in stemming rising temperatures and averting even greater damage from intensified heatwaves, droughts, storms and flooding.

The Prime Minister welcomed commitments made by scores of leaders attending the summit to halt and reverse the deforestation and to cut methane emissions.

In particular, he highlighted a pledge by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to slash his country's carbon emissions by switching half its power grid to renewable sources.

He also acknowledged, however, that the issue of climate finance had yet to be resolved - despite a 10 billion dollar (£7.3 billion) commitment from Japan over five years.

Mr Johnson said the richer nations were still behind on a commitment first made at Paris in 2015 to transfer 100 billion dollars (£73 billion) a year to developing countries to support sustainable development and mitigate the inevitable effects of global warming.

"What I've been asking for, as you know, is action on coal, cars, cash and trees, and after just a couple of days we can certainly begin to tick three of those boxes," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Johnson was returning to London after end of the two-day leaders' event which opened the summit, but he made it clear he would continue to be engaged.

In a message to the remaining teams who will get down to the task of detailed negotiations, he said: "The eyes of the world are on you - the eyes of the British Government and all the other governments that care about this - and we have got your numbers."

Leaders of developing countries most at risk from the effects of climate change told delegates the stakes could not be higher.

"Let's work for the survival of ours and all species. Let's not choose extinction," said Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Keith Rowley.

The Global Methane Pledge, launched on Tuesday after being announced in September with just a few signatories, now covers countries representing nearly half of global methane emissions and 70% of global GDP, US President Joe Biden said.

Methane is more short-lived in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but 80 times more potent in warming the planet. Cutting emissions of the gas, estimated to have accounted for 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times, is one of the most effective ways of slowing climate change.

Among the signatories is Brazil - one of the five biggest emitters of methane, generated in cows' digestive systems, in landfill waste and in oil and gas production.

Three others - China, Russia and India - have not signed up, while Australia has said it will not back the pledge.

The United States also unveiled its own domestic proposal to crack down on methane emissions with a focus on the oil and gas sector, where leaky infrastructure allows methane to escape into the atmosphere.

COP26 aims to keep alive a receding target of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avert still greater damage than has already been caused by climate change.

More than 100 national leaders signed the promise to halt the destruction of the world's forests which absorb roughly 30% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute.

In another deal signed on Tuesday, Britain and India launched a plan to improve connections between the world's electricity power grids to help accelerate the transition to greener energy.

But there was scant sign so far of shared resolve by the world's two biggest carbon polluters, China and the United States, which together account for more than 40% of global emissions but are at odds on numerous issues.

Biden has singled out China and leading oil producer Russia for failing to step up their climate goals in Glasgow, while Beijing has rejected Washington's efforts to separate climate issues from their wider disagreements.

The Communist Party-run Global Times said in an editorial on Monday that Washington's attitude had made it "impossible for China to see any potential to have fair negotiation amid the tensions".

China said on Tuesday that President Xi Jinping who decided not to attend in person, had not been given an opportunity to deliver a video address, and had to send a written response instead - in which he offered no additional pledges.

Mr Johnson said President Xi not being at the summit was becasue of the coronavirus pandemic and “that doesn’t mean the Chinese are not engaging” and that “we’re seeing some signs of progress”, but he added more needed to be done.

Mr Johnson said: “I think that we need China to make commitments, China has already made a substantial commitment in the sense that they’ve moved to net zero by the middle of the century, 2060 or before, as Xi Jinping says.”

He added: “China has fantastic power to make change in the way it runs its economy, they’ve committed to no new financing of overseas coal, that’s a big change already, you’re starting to see the impact of that Chinese decision to stop financing coal overseas in the whole Asia Pacific region already.”

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